Gamasutra has a nice interview with Daniel Erickson, the lead writer on Star Wars: The Old Republic at BioWare Austin. Nothing truly new, but a lot of good points that are worth repeating, and an insight into how Bioware handles writing in games. Some extracts, slightly rearranged and emphasis mine:
[Writing in games] has to get better, and better, and better, and be more like the best dialogue lines from movies, but it’s done in an interactive, nonlinear system, that — let’s be clear — 99 out of 100 writers don’t even understand how to do, and never will.
So, it’s hard to find the talent, it’s hard to train the talent.
It’s good to keep this in mind.
We are extremely lucky that BioWare is run by two guys who are dedicated to the idea of story, so that’s what they want to do. They’re dedicated to the idea of dialogue and narrative, and that storytelling has to have great, punchy writing.
It’s hard to get the dedication from a [parent] company that’s never done it, to say, “Hey, we’re going to do it.”
It sounds like, the way you’re describing it, it’s almost more of a challenge in terms of content and commitment rather than actually being a big game design problem. Is that the case?
DE: There are numerous game design problems, but I would not say that they are insurmountable game design problems.
So much in game development, especially classical, ‘core’ game development, is about commitment. It’s about wanting to do it enough, even though it’s hard, and even though it’s not how things were done before. This goes way beyond writing.
Erickson later talks about Bioware’s three month writer training program, which I find very interesting, and how leading a group of writers is like being a magazine editor. Or, as Lee Sheldon would probably say, like being a show runner.
I see every piece of content, every single piece of content at every single stage, and make sure that we’re all keeping to a voice and a tone, the same way a good magazine editor would.
It’s an interesting interview.